As a true introvert, reading has never been that much of a social activity for me. And that’s basically what I’ve always liked about it. Since I was a little girl, I loved entering a different world — ALONE! — and meeting new characters and understanding their struggles.
As a kid, I don’t remember having any burning desire to talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer adventures, about why I loved Narnia, or even later my predictions for the next high school romance for the twins of Sweet Valley High. I exchanged books with my friends but we didn’t talk about them much.
Later I made half-hearted attempts at trying to become more social with my reading. I joined a book club or two and never returned after my first meeting. (Like my friend Nina Badzin, I became frustrated with the way that these book clubs never seemed to get around to talking about the actual book!) I even started my own book club at work once. I tried GoodReads. I went to a few city-sponsored book discussion groups. I even watched Oprah when she featured books that I had read.
But all of this talking was never for me.
Then I started blogging and I discovered that I did like talking about books… just not in person. I love having conversations online about books — with my real life friends, with my blogging friends, with other writer friends. The “conversations” are specific and focused; they don’t tend to get side-tracked by comments about the delicious appetizer being served.
Now I find that if I’ve read a book that I’ve loved, the experience is not complete without “talking” about it with someone: on Facebook, Twitter, in our Brilliant Book Club for Parents, on blogs.
This summer I haven’t written much about books. Pregnancy, the impending publication of the new HerStories Project book… they’ve all gotten in the way, and I miss sharing my latest reads.
Here are the books that I read this summer about which I wish I’d had more conversation (online, of course):
1. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I absolutely loved this novel. It’s narrated by a married guy with a young daughter who’s ended a passionate affair but wants to win back his ambivalent wife. It’s mostly set in France and got me thinking a lot about the idea of monogamy.
My thoughts: I found myself increasingly sympathetic to this unfaithful husband. Is that a weird response?
2. Friendship: A Novel by Emily Gould and 3. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. I’ve already reviewed Friendship, and I’m putting these together because they reminded me of a life that I always fantasized about: living in NYC as a writer/editor in my twenties. My Salinger Year is a actually a coming-of-age memoir about Rakoff’s experiences as an assistant to the literary agent of J.D. Salinger.
My thoughts: As a writer intrigued by the publishing industry, I loved both of these books. But do you think there are too many books, too many movies and TV shows, about privileged twentysomethings in Manhattan who want to become writers?
4. Cutting Teeth: A Novel by Julia Fierro. I’ve been a huge fan of this book since it came out as well. It’s about a group of NYC parents (all of whom have serious — and not so serious — issues) who go away for a weekend on Long Island. It’s about the anxieties of frantic modern parenthood, the difficulties of negotiating friendships and alliances with young kids. It’s funny, biting, honest, sad, and touching, all at once.
My thoughts: How much can you identify with these characters, or did you read the novel as more of a social critique?
5. All Fall Down: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. I didn’t love this book as much as I’ve liked some of her other novels. Still I was fascinated by the portrait of addiction that Weiner paints. I knew very little about prescription pain medicine abuse, and I did find myself wondering if I knew anyone who might be suffering.
My thoughts: Did Weiner’s portrayal of Allison’s coping strategies and descent into addiction seem realistic to you?
6. Remember Me Like This: A Novel by Bret Anthony Johnston. The plot sounds like this could be an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and if you buy it believing that, you might be disappointed. It’s actually a beautiful, luminous literary novel, nearly disguised as a movie-of-the-week story. It’s about what happens when an abducted child miraculously returns, when happy endings and recovery are more complicated than a newspaper headline.
My thoughts: The book reveals little about the boy’s time during his abduction. Do you think the author was smart to leave out those details?
7. The Arsonist: A novel by Sue Miller. I would read anything that Sue Miller writes — her shopping list, a few scribbles on the page. For me, this novel — about a fortysomething African aid worker who returns home to small town New Hampshire just when a series of arsons wreak havoc on her town — did not disappoint.
My thoughts: Who are the writers that you will always read?
8. How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source by Johanna Stein. Parenting humor memoirs are not really my thing. I received a review copy of this, and I was surprised to find it incredibly entertaining. I love Stein’s fearless sense of humor and her not-so-serious attitude about parenting. She’s a terrific storyteller.
My thoughts: I find it impossible to write humor as good as this. What are the keys to be being funny and wise when writing about parenting?
9. My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. Why, yes, it is our about-to-be-released HerStories Project book. But it’s also much of what I’ve been reading this summer, and I can’t wait until everyone gets to read these compelling and fantastic essays. I can’t wait to see which ones you can relate to and which ones make you laugh, cry, or think about friendship loss in a new way!
The official release date is September 15th, when it will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as on our website as a download.
What are some books that you read this summer that you really want to talk about?